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Section 2


Section 3

karakuli lkae 180 kilometers from Kashgar

china northeast tiger

kunlun mountains

white tiger



china panda visiting tours
   

 


While China has a fascinating array of different species, many of which are very rare or endangered (see below), it's far more likely that you'll come across the country's more common birds, insects and domestic animals. Some of the more spectacular bird species inc!ude cormorants (see Yaks on the moue (Tot Foster) Yangshuo, Adven-tures On Water p. 429), cranes, her-
Onsand king fishers,a swell as larger birds of preysuchaseagles.Of the insects you may encounter, the praying mantis is probably the most fasci-nating and comes in a range of colors, from dusty brown to lurid green. The insect's name derives from it's seeming to be prostrated in prayer and it is renowned for its predatory nature, especially the female, which often kills the male post-copulation. Dragonflies and butterflies are also abundant throughout China, and the south claims some of the largest in the world, including the giant atlas moth butterfly whose wingspan can measure over eight inches. In parkland areas you're likely to see squirrels and, if ou're lucky, deer. For those traveling into western mountain regions, you'll likely
encounter yaks, both wild and domesticated and, if you're southward bound, you may see monkeys. China's rivers also offer an array of wildlife, including river dolphins (see list below), sturgeons and even alligators.
Endangered Species Brown Eared Pheasant -China has a quarter of the world's 196 species of pheasant, including the rare brown eared variety. It is unique to China and lives in high mountain coniferous forests in Shaanxi and Hebei prov-
mces.

Chinese Alligator -
The presence of alligators in China's Yangzi River may come as a bit .of a surprise to many, but these reptiles once filled the waterways. Changing environ-ments and dam con-struction have all played their part in the large population decline to less than 100 in the wild. They still inhabit parts of the Yangzi in Anhui and a research and breeding center has been established to help increase Chinese alligator awareness and numbers.
Cranes -Cranes are large and spectacular birds and have cultural significance throughout the world (symbolic of new life and of babies in the West and of longevity and happiness in China). They are noisy, colorful and like to "dance." Worldwide, there are 15 species, of which 11 are threatened. Eight of these species breed or winter in China, and three of them are endangered -the Siberian crane, the sarus crane and the red-crowned crane.
Crested Ibis -The crested ibis is among the 50 most endangered birds, with fewer than 250 mature individuals worldwide. There are none left in their native habitat in Japan, and only a handful breeding in the Qingling Mountains of China. The government has invested heavily in their preservation and, with help from the WWF, these beautiful birds may just survive. Golden Monkey -This small golden-coated monkey's distinctive upturned nose has earned its nick name of the'snub nose'monkey. By the mid-1980s it was estimated that only 200 were left in the wild, but, after successful breeding projects and aid from the government, their population has increased dramatically to over 800 in 2006.

Grey Baiji <Yangzi River Dolphin) -With only five left in captivity and probably fewer than 100 in the wild, China has all but lost one of the world's most unusual mammals. Pollution, increasing river traffic and dam con-
struction have all contributed to the demise of the baiji and it seems it will soon be gone forever.

Red Panda (Lesser Panda) -A very distant relation of its giant namesake, the red panda is a cuddly raccoon-like creature that lives in the trees of southern China,the Himalayas, India and Nepal.
Siberian Tiger & South China Tiger -These are some of the wo rld's mo t intriguing big cats, but are dangerously near extinction. The fur trade, demands of Chinese medicine and a rapidly vanishing habitat have all played a part in their demise. There are only an estimated 20 wild Siberian tigers in northern China, and 60 South China tigers along t e Yangzi River valley. In spite of protection efforts, the future doesn't look bright for these beautiful creatures.
Snow Leopard -The snow leopard is amongst China's most endangered animals. while their pelts fetch as much as US$50,000 on the illegal fur market, their bones are also popular as a traditional Chinese medicinal remedy, factors which when
Siberian tigers combined with decreasing habitat have seen their numbers dwindle. Now protected, and bred in captivity, some increase in numbers is being seen, but it's highly unlikely you'll ever see them in the wilderness of their Gansu, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibetan Plateau ranges. The giant panda is China's most famous and one of its most endangered species. Numbers have been dwindling since they were hunted by both Chinese and foreigners at the start of the 20th century, although deforestation has been the greatest recent threat -over 50% of their habitat was lost between 1974 and 1989. However, since the plight of our furry black and white Panda cub, seven months old, from Wolong Nature Preserve, Sichuan (Sheila Lau) friends was brought to the world's attention in the 1980s, some of their habitat has been protected. Their range used to extend from Beijing as far south as Yunnan, but today they are confined to parts of Shaanxi, Szechuan and Gansu. Estimates suggest that there are about 1,600 pandas left in the wild but, due to their remote habitats, the accuracy of these figures is uncertain.

  There are 188 pandas in captivity around the world and, with new breeding and research centers, international recognition and the WWF, things are beginning to look up for these cuddly looking creatures, but there is still a long way to go in order to rebuild their numbers. The centers aim to help breeding problems and assist research, with the ultimate goal of' reintroducing the pandas in to the wild. In April 2006, the first ever captive panda was released in the Qingling Mountains in Shaanxi and more releases are planned, although the jury is out as to whether this maybe premature given the limited amount of habitat. Increasing panda numbers involves preventing poaching and protecting panda habitats, but also ensuring that newborns manage to survive. Female pandas only reproduce once every two years and high infant mortality rates both in the wild and in captivity have hindered population growth. Although roughly half of all panda pregnancies result in twins, it's rare for two to survive, since the mothers reject the weaker sibling to nurture and protect the stronger. In captivity, one twin is taken away from its mother and sibling and re-introduced to the family at a later date, although this had been unsuccessful until new techniques including "twin swapping" and an accurate simulation of panda milk were introduced. Recent breakthroughs like these have led to a record number of births and an increased survival rate. Sixteen cubs were born in 2005, including a wonderful five sets of twins; all of them are still alive and well today. Success has also been enjoyed in the US, where baby Tai Shan was born in 2005 after his mom, Mei Xiang, was artificially inseminated. If captive numbers can reach 300 individuals, then this population should be able to maintain itself and its genetic diversity, though this is no viable substitute for wild populations. Did you know that the first panda was taken out of China in 1938 by Ruth Harkness, who passed the cub off as a puppy! 40,000 people came to visit the baby panda Su Lin on its first day in its new home at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

Visiting t he Pandas
Unless you have a number of months to go trekking into the wild, your best option is to visit one of the WWF-sponsored breeding and research centers at Chengdu and Wolong in Szechuan or at the Zhouzhi center in Shaanxi (see Sightseeing, Around Xi'an, p. 251). Here, you can see pandas in their natural habitat and, although they are still confined, the enclosures are large and the animals are well cared for. If you're not visiting these areas there are pandas in the zoos, but this is an experience far removed from a wild sighting, and conditions leave a lot to be desired.
Animal Protectionn Organizations
Animals get a rough deal in many parts of Asia and China is no exception, particularly because of the predilection for exotic animal parts as remedies used in TCM. The websites listed below offer information and ways to help animals in China:
Animals Asia (www.animalsasia.org).This Hong Kong-based charity established in 1998 runs a variety of animal welfare programs in China. China Bear Rescue has helped over 200 bears in China escape a torturous life of captivity. There is still a huge medicinal market for bear bile and many undergo the horrific technique of bile extraction known as 'free drip-ping.'
WWF (www.wwf.china.org).Although they are most readily associated with pandas in China, the WWF is involved in wide-ranging projects throughout the country that aim to protect various animals through a variety of means, including preserving their habitats, rehabilitation and education.